I managed to see Elvis long after his prime, at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in 1971, as I recall. It was not the most glowing image of Elvis that I can recall. And I actually went to an Elvis Festival in Penticton, British Columbia with dear friends, Ken and Debbie. The best things about Penticton were its proximity to some decent golf courses, and an abundance of wineries in the Okanogan Valley. Oh, and Ken’s dedication to Rocky Mountain Raspberry ice cream!
But here in Memphis, one must make a pilgrimage to Graceland, the 13.8 acre site that was home to Elvis Presley. It is located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN. Many people say it is the second (600,000 visits) most visited home, after the White House (900,000 visits) in Washington, DC. Though Elvis died here in 1977, it did not open to the public until 1982. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, (1991), and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
Most people, including me, did not realize he had a twin brother, Jesse Garon, who is also buried here. Elvis is buried here in the Meditation Garden, along with his parents, and grandmother.
Some controversy exists as to the contents of the Graceland mansion itself. Arthur Goldman, an Elvis biographer, describes Graceland as a brothel, where nothing in the house is worth a dime. He calls it garish, phony, and gaudy, with the royal red reaching an intensity that would make you gag. Looks very British in my opinion.
It was back in 1957 that Elvis gave his parents $100,000 to buy a “farmhouse” type property to purchase. After his Mom died, Vernon Presley married Dee Stanley in 1960, and lived there for a while. His wife to be, Priscilla Beaulieu lived at Graceland for five years before she married Elvis. They lived there for five more years after they married in 1967.
Most of you know Elvis had some quirks. Here is one of the biggest, a list of items that must be kept in the kitchen, at all times.
Interestingly to me, President George W. Bush hosted the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi in 2006, for a tour of the mansion. It became the only residence on American soil (other than an Embassy), the White House, or Presidential retreat, to host a sitting U.S. President and foreign head of state. Obviously Koizumi was a big Elvis fan, and even shares the same date of birth, January 8.
So, how did it become a tourist destination? After Elvis’ death, and faced with mounting debts and expenses, Priscilla hired Jack Soden to turn Graceland into a moneymaker. Today, the entire enterprise (now a trust) is worth well over $100 million. Living Room
Many people plan their trip to Graceland as a pilgrimage of sorts, planning years in advance for this semi-religious experience. In the garden where Elvis’ grave is located, many pray or sing Elvis songs while kneeling at his grave. The headphones narrate his life, including his rise from a poor boy to rock and roll fame, along with his stint in the Army, his extraordinary musical talent, his generosity, his substance abuse, and his love of Gospel music.
Many Elvis artifacts are also found here, including his famous jumpsuits, awards, gold records, the Lisa Marie jetliner, and his extensive auto collection. The upper floors where the Presleys lived is not open to the public. Elvis’ bedroom has remained untouched since his death.
New exhibits this year:
Live from Las Vegas
Elvis, Through His Daughter’s Eyes
When in doubt, just go to Elvis.com!!!!
The title of Paul Simon’s album, Graceland, was inspired by Elvis’ home. The title song presents Graceland as a holy place. Whether you agree or not, Elvis is an American musical icon, who changed rock and roll forever. Many of us never got to see him in his prime, other than on the Ed Sullivan Show. To me, the message is clear. See and hear the great musical icons while they are alive, whether you like Stevie Wonder, or Bruce Springsteen. They will not be around forever.